Everyone has two cents’ worth of advice on how to fixand most feel inclined to share it loudly.
With fingers stuck politely in its ears, GM is pursuing its own strategy, addressing legacy costs while forging ahead with a new global product-development plan.
GM has been redefining its vehicle engineering and assigning new-vehicle programs to global teams around the world, such as large rear-drive cars in Australia, midsize cars in Europe and light trucks in Brazil. Bigger pickups and SUVs continue to be developed in the U.S.
It is making for interesting bedfellows.
An Opel studio in Germany is the lead for Saturn design, penning the look of the Saturn Aura sedan, a variant on the midsize Opel Vectra. The Opel GT roadster for Europe is a triplet of the hot Pontiac Solstice and pending Saturn Sky.
The Opel Antara cross/utility concept could be the next Saturn Vue and the Opel Astra should cross the pond as a future Saturn Ion.
Cadillac and Saab have cozied up. Saab makes the Cadillac BLS in Sweden, a Caddy strictly for Europe based on the Saab 9-3.
GM may build the new Cadillac BRX CUV and a Saab version called the 9-4X, from the Epsilon II platform, in about 2008, in Sweden.
And there have been suggestions a Saab CUV for North America would share the more premium Sigma platform with the Cadillac SRX.
Saab knows it never again will design a new vehicle from scratch. A hub in Germany will do the basic engineering and it is up to each brand’s integration team to tweak the prototype to meet its needs.
This pooling of resources and efficiency of effort – GM says global development of Epsilon II will save $1 billion – makes it possible for lean brands to expand offerings and earnings.
Saab will be very profitable within three years, says GM product chief Bob Lutz.
The hope is such results will silence critics, such as new GM board member Jerry York, who has called for the sale of brands such as Saab and Hummer.
Lutz says York has been "educated" that there no longer is a standalone Saab to sell; it would be "like trying to take eggs out of an omelet."
But while GM’s products will be engineered globally, they will be marketed regionally.
In North America, the plan is to restrict which brands receive variants of a new vehicle.
It could prove the proper template to keep the brands alive and distinct without draining the coffers.
But GM must be strong and resist dealers who cry for badge-engineered models.
Already there has been some backtracking. Pontiac got the Torrent CUV that stole the exclusivity of the Chevrolet Equinox and may get a sister to the Cobalt. The return of the Chevy Camaro could be diluted with a Pontiac performance twin.
GM’s myriad brands can make sense if the auto maker has the discipline to stay on plan.
But that’s just my two cents worth.